We spent one day driving around La Rioja region, but a lot of bodegas were closed because of a La Rioja public holiday (“lucky us”).
The only place that we could find to be open was the Marqués de Riscal winery, which also has a famous hotel with the same name on its territory. The hotel looks very unusual with its design being the creation of the eminent Canadian architect Frank O. Gehry, who also designed the Guggenheim museum in the centre of Bilbao…..and you can surely spot the similarities.
You can’t just walk around the winery as it’s also the territory of the hotel and all tours are guided and cost 12 euros. The tour was interesting and let us see inside different wine cellars, some of which are more than 200 years old!
We also saw some wine bottles dated from 1858 (the year of opening the oldest cellars in the Rioja appellation). We were told that only the owners of the company can open those super vintage wines with the last time being a few years ago when Frank O. Gehry finished his masterpiece of the hotel.
La Rioja is one of the most infamous wine regions in Spain, producing 4 wine varieties.
Tempranillo: is the youngest of all 4; aged for only a few months, this wine retains its freshness and fruitiness but can still have some tannins aftertaste.
Crianza: is a very popular fruity medium-bodied wine, which is easy-drinking and super affordable.
Reserva: this wine has to be aged for at least 3 years with at least one year in the casks. Only good grapes are selected from older vine trees. Great tasting wine being a middle-ground between fruity and playful Crianza and oaky and grounded Gran Reserva.
Gran Reserva: is serious stuff. It has to be aged for at least 3 years in oak casks and 3 years in the bottles. And only the best grapes are selected for this type of wine, rising its value on the market.
Tip #1: A good way to tell if the wine is young is to tilt your wine glass and have a look at the colour of the wine ridge. If it appears purplish – that’s a good indicator that the wine wasn’t aged for a long time, maybe a few months at the most. Whereas, if you can see more orangy and brown undertones, this tells you that the wine has been in oak casks for at least a year or longer.
Tip #2: If you are driving, be careful. The alcohol limit in Spain is 0.05.
Overall, a great drive and the tour was well worth it, especially because there was wine tasting after it!